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Napster was developed by Shawn Fanning with the help of Sean Parker. It was launched in June of 1999 while Fanning was attending Northwestern University.
An unreleased version of Metallica's "I Disappear," started circulating around the Napster network and was later played on radio stations. This brought the attention of the Napster network to Metallica, and subsequently; they filed a lawsuit in 2000 against the napster service. At the time, the lawsuits were opposed by Napster users and supporters. To them, it seemed that file sharing was inevitable on the Internet, and it was not Napster's fault that people used the service to share copyrighted files. These users viewed Napster as a simple search engine. Many argued that any attempt to shut down Napster would simply lead to people using a different medium to exchange files over the Internet. Similarly, many supporters of Napster were concerned about the media's constant use of the word "site" to describe the service, a word which seems to imply that Napster was distributing files itself rather than facilitating their exchange.
After a failed appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court, an injunction was issued on March 5, 2001 ordering Napster to prevent the trading of copyrighted music on its network. In July 2001, Napster shut down its entire network in order to comply with the injunction. On September 24, 2001, the case was partially settled. Napster agreed to pay music creators and copyright owners a $26 million settlement for past, unauthorized uses of music, as well as an advance against future licensing royalties of $10 million. In order to pay those fees, Napster attempted to convert their free service to a subscription system.
On May 17, 2002, Napster announced that its assets would be acquired by German media firm Bertelsmann for $8 million. Pursuant to terms of that agreement, on June 3 Napster filed for Chapter 11 protection under United States bankruptcy laws. On September 3, 2002, an American bankruptcy judge blocked the sale to Bertelsmann and forced Napster to liquidate its assets according to Chapter 7 of the U.S. bankruptcy laws. Most of the Napster staff were laid off, and the website changed to display "Napster was here".
After a $2.4 million take offer by the Private Media Group, an "adult entertainment company", Napster's brand and logos were acquired at bankruptcy auction by the company Roxio, Inc. which used them to rebrand the Pressplay music service as Napster 2.0. As of 2005, this new service has met with moderate success.
Original Program Information
Napster is a search engine that allows you to find and download MP3 audio files. It eliminates the problems of conventional FTP transfers by using cutting-edge technology to ensure the completion of each MP3 download. When searching online for songs, you can specify the minimum server ping (response) times, as well as MP3 bitrates and frequency.
Napster essentially provides a virtual community of MP3 fans, in that each Napster user "shares" his or her MP3 collection with everyone else running Napster, ensuring a vast collection of MP3s for download. All results are verified to allow you to find the fastest server, and all searches are in real time, so the list of available songs you receive is consistently reliable. The program also features Automatic Hash Resuming, which lets Napster find the next-fastest server that has the same song and automatically complete the download if you should lose your connection. The easy-to-use Napster interface features its own chat system that allows users to chat with each other in a number of different forums, based on music genre. Also included with Napster is an internal MP3 player, although you can choose to specify an external MP3 player. Its Hot List feature helps you keep track of your favorite MP3 libraries by notifying you when they are online and accessible.
Versions 2.0 beta 10+ feature a new acoustic fingerprinting technology which can read sonic characteristics of songs to better protect copyright holders.
Note: Napster listed here is the original Napster that was eventually shut down. Napster was relaunched in Novemeber 2003 as Napster 2.0, a paid service.